Most small business owners back into their sales budgets. They estimate total sales, subtract fixed and variable costs, and grudgingly decide based on whatever is left what they can afford to spend on advertising and sales.
That's why sales budgets are often based on, "Well...that's all I can afford."
That's also a mistake. You should almost always spend more to acquire new students than you think...especially if you can land the right students.
The key to growing your business is to approach customer acquisition costs like you would any other business investment. Don't treat sales costs like a line item to tweak so your overall expense budget "works." Treat sales costs as an investment intended to generate a reasonable short-term return and a significant long-term return.
“No matter what you do, you better treat them well,” said Steve Pinado, Vice President of Member Solutions. “Know their name and give them the best trial experience possible.”
Pinado believes that building a community among your members goes a long way toward cementing great relationships. “A lot of gyms,” he said, “especially with kids, put them in a uniform right away and take a picture the kids can have. With adults, and especially female students, give them some one-on-one time, and make sure they meet some other members right away. This helps increase the sense of community.”
Never forget this is a service business. Heacock compares it to the restaurant business. “You’ll probably return to a restaurant with superior service and mediocre food, compared to a place with great food and mediocre service.” That business mindset can be a boost for sales.
Some would say the challenge is not in making a good first impression; it’s simply getting the opportunity to make that good impression. The ubiquitous “free week of classes” can draw in potential members. And it’s a hot topic among the professionals we contacted for this article.
“The first impression is the single most important thing in getting to a signed contract. And I used to do what everyone else in the industry does,” said Rob Handley, owner of Absolute MMA in South Jordan, Utah. “I used to give free classes – hoping this was a step to making people feel more welcome.”
Handley, however, found the opposite to be true. In his experience, potential members were likely to get a bad first impression from the free class program. “If you just show someone the class schedule and put them in a class, they will easily feel intimidated and out of shape among your regular members,” said Handley.
“There is only one way under high heaven to get anybody to do anything. Did you ever stop to think of that? Yes, just one way. And that is by making the other person want to do it. Remember, there is no other way.”
Dale Carnegie included this in his timeless book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” in 1936. That was well before Mixed Martial Arts. It preceded much of the retail or member-based businesses we know today. Still, Carnegie is one of the most-often quoted business trainers. And “Win Friends” sold millions of copies.
A popular and more modern variation of this quote goes something like: No one likes to be sold something, but everyone likes to buy. So how do you make people want a membership? How do you get them to buy?
Nailing the first impression and extending that positive experience is key for any business owner – especially in the MMA industry, which is increasingly in competition with fitness gyms and traditional martial arts dojos.
I started working on this article looking to provide simple points of guidance to help MMA gym owners and trainers grasp the retail opportunities available in nutrition supplements. But, like an athlete looking for the quick fix from a nutrition supplement, I failed.
I was not completely wrong, however. As far as “simple” and “supplements,” that’s where I was wrong, completely wrong. But the “supplements as opportunity” part, there I was completely right. I gotta take these victories when I can get ‘em.
I spoke with several experts in nutrition and supplementation to learn how MMA athletes and gym owners can benefit from this blend.
To “supplement” is to add, expand, or even improve. When it comes to supplementing an athlete’s nutrition, that can mean a whole lot of things to different athletes. But it still means only “supplement” and not “magic potion.”
“First, your diet has to be as good as it can be,” said Neal Spruce. “The most important thing an athlete can do is eat the best combination of proteins and carbs to fill energy stores. On top of that, you supplement for deficiencies in your diet. You load your energy systems properly for your needs,” said Spruce.
That means, as a service provider, you’ll do best to counsel your members on nutrition and supplementation.
The final installment of Jerrod Kelley's piece on how to become a more efficient gym owner takes a look at the concerns that accompany using service providers and how to make sure to turn a profit with your business.
Apprehension toward using a service provider is common. The expense is an important aspect for MMA gyms. The implementation time and eventual loss of control may also concern you. Or you might think your gym is too small to need one of these service providers.
“Small gyms (say 50 members or less) can probably handle many services themselves,” says Pinado, “but they probably shouldn’t. You should still be working on growing, and turning 50 members to 100,” he says. “We want to pinpoint a need, so we can help our clients be more efficient, grow their business — by getting more customers and keeping the ones they have.”